on making lists of compositions…

After going to the computer music concert the other night and then visiting the composers’ and Lisa Bost’s (who bills herself as a flutist and composer) I realized that I just haven’t had an updated list of my own compositions.  Not that I have even update my own website lately for that matter, but I decided it was time to start gathering all that info again (and update it with the recent compositions I’ve written the past few years).

As usual, I always get into the issue of how to categorize things.  You would think that making a list of your works would be a straightforward endeavor, but as is always the case for when I start trying to put things into neat little boxes I find that the containers just aren’t the right size, or shape.

Sure, there are the straightforward items–a Symphony or a String Quartet fit nicely into a typical scored composition–a do most songs whether it’s an Art lieder or pop tune.  Given the source of inspiration for making this list, electronic compositions start getting into murky territory.  For example, many of the early electronic composers had issues when, say, using one of those cumbersome computers like the MARK II synthesizer, to generate music as all of the sudden composers no longer had to work with a form of written notation to create music (yeah, yeah–let’s set aside the whole issue of improvisation right now since I’m talking about an actual ‘finished product’).

With the rise of recording technology music could exist as a purely recorded work which made some copyright issues hairy since previously those were tied to actual printed compositions.

I have, over the past fifteen years or so, self- released or have had released by other labels music that only exists in this form.  Those are actually relatively straightforward to deal with as you just list them as electronic works, or possibly just ‘sound art’ or something similar.  the issue with those, however, is I don’t even have a complete catalogue of works that have been released.  Often in that murky world of the experimental underground and noise music artist’s will send in a track for compilations or even full length albums at an almost alarming rate and unless you are meticulous about making a note about where all that audio goes you just might forget about it.  I recently discovered a track of mine that I sent in for a compilation submission years ago was actually released on that compilation.  I never received a copy, which isn’t the issue here, but I just had no idea that it was out for public consumption.

Such is that world or music.

The really difficult issue lies with the multi-media or multi-genre works.  For example, I had written several hundred event scores (ala Fluxus) which, technically aren’t music compositions in any orthodox sense and were primarily used for Performance Art events.  Being someone with a musical background, however, made me more likely to structure those prescriptive scores so that the natural side-effect of performing them include some kind of sonic element.  Or to emphasize a sonic element.

Also, occasionally I will find out that some sounds I have sent to people (or that people have simply downloaded from various online audio sites or just ripped from recordings) have been used in installations or as part of a larger multi-media performance.

I guess I’m wondering at what point does something stop being a composition and become a “live composed performance”–which is really an issue that improvisers have to deal with (if they are concerned at all with documenting a live improv as a composition, which it is in my book).


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